Seven Ways to Humanize Storytelling for Business & Brands

New post series by Anneliza Humlen @ADHumlen exploring the evolution of storytelling and themes.


“Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it” – Hannah Arendt

Prior to the emergence of social networks, brand stories would typically unfold as a controlled narrative told from the perspective and interests of the business/brand.   As traditional media such as TV, print and digital brought such stories to life, distinct traditions formed in how stories were communicated and the content of the stories themselves.   The combination of absolute control and the limits imposed by such traditions, would often limit the growth and appeal of the stories.  Many of the story themes that were once regarded best practice and believed to be useful, we now know via social media as ineffective in generating meaningful and enduring interest.   The new tradition of storytelling for business/brands evolves from what “THEY (corporation) want people to know,” to the stories that people can relate to on a human level.  The story themes that support a more “human” centered form of storytelling have now become the  “new traditions” in growing business/brand interest.

I’ve been working with brands for 15+ years.   Over that time, I have crafted my fair share of “traditional” stories for my clients and their brands.   As the strategies came to reflect a greater social influence, I’ve recognized growing trends in how story themes have had to evolve from corporate traditions, towards a more human minded perspective.    I’ve summarized the seven most prominent themes as follows:

Theme 1)  From: Corporate Size & Stats >> To: The People Within

Theme 2)  From:  Mass Media Push >> To: Engaging Relationships

Theme 3)  From:  Demographics Segments & Groups >> To: Communities and Shared Interests

Theme 4)  From:  Closed, Self-Sufficient & Proprietary >> To: Social, Open and Collaborative

Theme 5)  From:  Corporate Authority as Leadership >> To: Leadership vision, inspiration and influence

Theme 6)  From:  Product & Process >> To: Promise and Purpose

Theme 7)  From:  Manufactured marketing and communications >> To: Co-Created, re-purposed social currency


I’ve created this series of posts dedicated to exploring each theme over the following weeks.  I believe that enduring and emotionally meaningful stories must begin with share-worthy substance that people can relate to on a human level.  It is by individual adoption and added perspective that stories can truly come alive and grow to become inspiring and transformative.

Great stories are timeless.  But this doesn’t mean that the content of the story itself, or the way in which it is conveyed cannot evolve or be re-framed.  When stories evolve in ways that connect an individual to a bigger ideal, concepts such as a brand, can evolve into a human connection, and ultimately a unifying community link.

Anneliza Humlen